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Things You Need To Know About Woodworking Routers

6474 Views 11 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Mike
Woodworking has evolved over a period of time and people are no longer using the tools that were initially being used to craft wood into different shapes and sizes. The thought about using chisels and hammers no longer looks comfortable to people who now have woodworking routers available to them. People involved in such businesses or thinking about getting started can today find different types of routers available in the market. Beginners may find it difficult to choose a router best suited for their requirements. It is definitely far more difficult than purchasing a chisel or a hammer. Nevertheless, information about the subject is easily available and can help people make an informed decision with ease. If you are a beginner in this business, here are a few things that you should keep in mind before you go ahead and make a purchase.

Before you head to the nearest local hardware store, you would do well to spend a little time and gather information about the different types of routers available in the market. You should also spend a little time trying to ascertain the reasons why you have made a decision to purchase a woodworking router. The sheer scale of information available about woodworking routers is likely to leave you confused. However, if you apply your mind to the task, you will find that the information available will help you make an informed decision. Once you have the information in your possession, you can move out in search of a woodworking router that will best suit your requirements.

Type of work verses the Router Size:

Bear in mind that the type of work you intend to undertake will determine the type of router, you will need. Do not visit a hardware store and ask for the biggest and best router available with them. You can certainly look for the best but the type of work you intend to start undertaking will determine the size of the router. Routers have motors with a capacity in the region of 1 to 3 1/2 hp. If your job involves basic shaping and trimming you will be better off with a capacity of 1/2 to 2 hp. Larger motors are meant for serious woodworking and may not suit your purpose unless you wish to invest in additional capacity for future use.

Collet Sizes for most routers:

The size of the collet chuck will also play a role in the type of router you purchase. Most of the larger Routers are equipped with ¼, 3/8 and 1/2 inch chucks. The smaller router have just the ¼ collet chuck. As a beginner, you could make a start with a smaller router used to mold the edge of the project piece and make simple joinery. The chuck size in these routers is, 1/4 inch in size.

The Router Configuration:

The type of configuration you choose will also play a role as you will be looking at two different configurations. You could either choose a fixed base or a plunge base when looking to purchase woodworking Routers. A fixed base is lighter, but will restrict you in some way, and will prove to be uncomfortable to work with in the long run. On the other hand, a plunge base will allow you to position the bit above the wood and allow the router to plunge into the wood, giving you better flexibility when working.

Safety with the Woodworking Router:

Your enthusiasm at getting started with the woodworking router should also include the best practices with regards to safety. You are strongly advised to take certain precautions, which will be crucial when working with such power tools. Do not wear shirts with long sleeves or have any kind of material hanging from your clothes. You will also be required to remove any kind of jewelery or accessories that you may be wearing on your hands. Ensure that you read the manual provided by the manufacturer paying special attention to the kind of precautions that you should take. Once you are fully conversant about these matters, you can go ahead and start using the woodworking routers for your next woodworking project.
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Hello and welcome to Router Forums, n/a (I'd put a name in there, but you didn't fill it in)

I'm sure that other members here will chip in with helpful suggestions about your little article. Might I ask if it is a high school project or something similar?

I'll add a few remarks of my own for you to consider.....
The thought about using chisels and hammers no longer looks comfortable to people who now have woodworking routers available to them.
Routers don't often perform the same tasks as chisels and hammers IMHO. Sure, they can make it easier to hang a door, but for a one-off it's still a lot faster to use hammers and chisels, and auger bits, cordless drills, etc, rather than break out a router. Other than that routers really replace a whole slew of planes

You seem to think that shaping can be done with smaller routers. Well, that isn't always the case, either. If you want to do large size panel raising, shape stair handrails or cornice (crown) mouldings that can be done by a router, but for the bigger router cutters you need as much power as you can get. Really. On the other hand a 1/4in roundover cutter can be chucked in a 600 watt (7/8HP) trim router and work well, proviiding you aren't routing a hard plastic like Corian. Power required equates to the cross sectional area of the material you are cutting as well as to the material itself - MDF is easier to work than cocobolo or Corian.

A fixed base is lighter, but will restrict you in some way, and will prove to be uncomfortable to work with in the long run.
I reckon you'll find a few folk on here who will disagree with that statement. There are some tasks where the lower centre of gravity and lower weight of the fixed base router is a boon, e.g. freehand sign work. They are probably more suitable for use in router tables, too. Whilst I mainly use plungers I can't say the fixed base routers I've used were particularly uncomfortable evem over extended periods of use (but some of the plungers I've used had dire ergonomics)

As regards safety you've missed several key points. Routers are extremely noisy and hearing defenders are a must because prolonged use over time will induce hearing impairment. Routers can also generate a large amount of fine dust which is going to cause respiratory problems (some species are natural irritants - and very fine wood dust can be carcenogenic according to the OHSA), so respiratory protection, a mask and preferably some form of dust extraction, are a must. You've also missed the need to protect the eyes. Some tasks, such as laminate trimming, generate small sharp particles which can give router users problems if the eyes are not protected by some form of safety spectacles or visor. Obviously the need for respiratoty and eye protection is reduced if the router can be kooked-up to a vacuum cleaner, but it doesn't go away


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While trim routers are useful for cleaning up or lightly shaping an edge I suggest a 2-1/4 hp combo kit router. (Note: For north american members) The kits have fixed bases designed for table mounting while the plunge base is best overall for free hand routing. A 2-1/4 hp model will let you accomplish just about any home project, even working with tougher materials. The ability to use one motor in two different bases keeps the cost low; change over is usually quick and easy.
Thank you Mike. I respect the opinion posted by Phil and hope to enhance my knowledge further with such posts
Thank you Phil, your opinion is highly appreciated
As Mike suggests, the combo kits now offered are a beginner's dream.

These kits eliminate most of the "guesswork" in providing multiple bases, collets, edge guides, some dust control, variable speed/soft start, height adjustment at both ends and maybe even a light. They're a good mix of power and weight and will cover just about all needs including table work.

Some choices I see is how does it feel in the hand, dependability/features of brand and perhaps a D handle with trigger.

I used a standard fixed based router for laminate work long before picking up a "trimmer" and didn’t need a big plunger until a staircase job called for large/deep blind cuts in hardwood.

I suspect that with a combo kit, one would have a harder time figuring out what they can't do with it.

Most know I'm a big fan of the combo router kits but the Trim router can do so much more than trim the edge, it's true most are 1/4" shank size but it can do many many jobs like making panel doors etc., box joints for just one more of many..
For me it's getting the most bang for your buck and without out putting tons of money out and the trim routers can do that.
The NEW Dewalt 611 pk trim router are great, one tool for many jobs,that can be mounted in a router table and have a plunge base for other jobs..just like the 2 1/4HP routers so to speak..

Why buy a tool and use it one time and put back it in the box, put it to work.. :)


I am going to disagree with you slightly. I work Corian all of the time. I have several sized routers. My old 1 horse Craftsman will route a reveal just fine.

However, we are all addicted to the zing of running through material about as fast as we can. That requires power. The advantages of cutting more slowly are many. In Corian, it keeps the dust down; as you will get shavings instead of dust. Cutting bits last as much as 11 times as long since the forces and the heat at the tip are so much less. Also, the transverse forces on the bit are considerably less. This means that the bit, bearing and axle of the router are not bending during the cut. You would be surprised how much they can bend during a forceful cut.

I have found the cutting slower has improved my joints in wood as well.

I hope this helps
Ken, I think you are comparing apples to oranges... power and speed are two different things. Anything you can do to reduce heat while cutting is a plus; this helps prevent burning on wood or melting with plastics. Reducing speed is a way to achieve this. Power relates to how much material can be removed in a pass, but it also has an effect on heat. A smaller motor works harder to make a cut and generates more heat. As far as flexing of the components in general during a cut a bigger router will usually have a larger shaft diameter which will reduce these problems. Keep in mind that an older Craftsman 1 HP rated router may very well be the equal of a new 1-1/2 HP model in actual cutting force. HP ratings are something used as a guide with routers and manufacturers play with the numbers.

I think that we actually agree. In theory but probably not in practice. A smaller router is going to bog down at a given force before a larger router. All other things being equal (material, cutter head, RPM, depth of cut), the temperature of the cutting edge is determined by the forward force applied. With a smaller router you will be forced to go slower by the bogging of the machine.

Going faster with a larger machine is not ideal. The cutter head and the material will be at a higher temperature,and the chip load will be greater. It may work OK but you are introducing more stress on the material and machine than is necessary. This will lead to a different quality of the cut. To many, this is not noticeable. But a router is nothing but a plane in another form. Additional force is like setting the blade lower in the plane. Very soon you get a worse cut because of the depth.

I am only trying to say that I have noticed far better quality and consistency with a slower approach. If I am going slower I do not need a high powered router. Though my 3.5 horse PC is a wonderful machine.

A smaller router is not a bad place to start even in Corian.

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I love good debate And this qualifies as such. So far all of you have brought up great points and issues that peak an interest and yet different philosophies. Learning and seeing great thoughts from all of you. Thanks
That is one good thing about the forums Craig. When you see a tool review here you know it is an end user opinion and not advertising. You will find different opinions on most of the topics. Most people have good reasons for their choices and it helps to get different points of view.
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